- Landing At Point Rain (Season 2, Episode 5)
Boom! This is war son, none of your fancy pants laser-sword, kung-fu mind-if-I-have-this-dance? bullshit. Clones are getting shot out of the sky left and right and the air’s full of shrapnel, call down some airstrikes, flame those Geonosians out of the tunnels, and take point, go, go, go, go… I love the smell of blaster in the morning. War is hell, even a star war, and this is the first time you really get a sense of the scale and deplorable cost of the Clone Wars, something sadly remiss from the later films.
Trivia: The long traveling shot as Anakin and his Clones charge the front line is inspired by 1962 war film The Longest Day.
- Lethal Trackdown (Season 2, Episode 22)
The final part in the arc that returned Boba Fett, still played by Daniel Logan from Attack Of The Clones, albeit with a touch more LA in his burr than nine years ago, he is forced to step up to his father’s legacy when the effortlessly cool Plo Koon and Ahsoka Tano try and bring his sociopathic new mentor, Aurra Sing, to justice. One of the many episodes of The Clone Wars to put the supporting characters front and centre, and see them blossom, including a rare benign turn from Weequay pirate Hondo Ohnaka who encourages Fett to do right by his sense of honour, paving the way for the bounty hunter who captivated imaginations in The Empire Strikes Back, and nothing so clear cut as a the pantomime villains around him.
Trivia: Anakin’s pose in the medical bay mirrors that of Darth Vader, stood ram-rod straight with his arms clasped behinds his back.
- Clone Cadets (Season 3, Episode 1)
Episodes focusing entirely on the Clone Troopers are responsible for perhaps the greatest (and most welcome) tonal shift within the series, from straight up larger than life space adventure, to a sort of white armoured Saving Private Ryan (in ‘Landing At Point Rain’s case). Which makes this very much the white armoured Full Metal Jacket as a dysfunctional squad of Clones struggle to pass their basic training under the watch of a hostile, vindictive drill instructor. While in the films, the cost of life and the wholesale slaughter of these poor factory farmed GIs was never really discussed, The Clone Wars frequently makes you care, and this makes you care the most – taking us right back to the origins of some of the series’ supporting characters. There’s a touch of Halo in their outfits, isn’t there?
Trivia: The Clones’ final test is called “THX variable 1138” after George Lucas’ earlier sci-fi film THX 1138.
- Brain Invaders (Season 2, Episode 8)
Brains are invaded. With worms. Worms through the nose. And this is for kids apparently. With most series when you put the audience identification woodentop up front, everything goes horribly wrong and gag-reflex tauntingly saccharine, but Ahsoka is so well realised, and her relationship with other characters so genuine, that this claustrophobic tale of two Padawan (or Padawans, where’s the Jedi grammar master?) freeing their ship from the grip of brainwashed Clone Troopers contains genuine scares and ratchetting levels of tension and horror. Especially when Ahsoka’s new friend falls victim and our happy go lucky apprentice is forced to consider how far she must going to keep this infection from reaching the helpless Clone troopers on a nearby medical station. There’re shades of The Thing as it ends with her shivering in the frost, holding her friend close, the evil within vanquished and maybe her with it.
Trivia: There’s an absolute shock moment when Anakin Force chokes Poggle the Lesser in his prison cell.
- Lair Of Grevious (Season 1, Episode 10)
One of those characters denied any sort of gravity in the whizz-bang PS3 game that was the Prequel Trilogy, we were supposed to believe he was some sort of Big Bad, but saw no evidence of it as he hacked, wheezed and windmilled his arms around, pausing only to scuttle away like Doctor Zoidberg (who incidentally, sounds a bit like Plo Koon). As beaming Jedi Master Kit Fisto and his fish-headed former Padawan find themselves lured into a confrontation with Grevious at the string-tugging of Count Dooku, his threat is underlined in red pen, killing fish-head, scattering Clone Troopers like ragdolls and fighting off Kit Fisto to the point where victory for the Jedi is merely escaping with one life saved, out of half a dozen.
Trivia: Grevious uses the same model of CCTV as Jabba the Hutt in Return Of The Jedi.
- Overlords (Season 3, Episode 15)
A decidedly leftfield turn into the sort of esoteric existentialism that’s more familiar to Star Trek fans used to seeing their heroes argue abstract points of morality with mad alien gods, what The Clone Wars’ core audience of bellowing 11-year-olds with Super Soakers would have made of this is a question for future generations dealing with the horrific aftermath to answer. Anakin, Ahsoka and Obi-Wan are drawn into a world within an prism where a ‘Father’ holds court over a ‘Son’ of Dark Side (voiced by The Force Unleashed’s own petulant master of Force Lightning, Sam Witwer) and a ‘Daughter’ of Light, who taunt Anakin with visions of his dead mother, and Asokha with visions of her future. Obi-Wan meanwhile is visited by the Force spirit of Qui-Gon Jinn, voiced, amazingly, by Liam Neeson.
Trivia: John Williams’ Episode I score flutes in to accompany the apparence of Qui-Gon.
- Monster (Season 3, Episode 13)
The middle-part of Ventriss’ grudge-match with Count Dooku (looking far better than the struggling Christopher Lee did, frankly), introduces the brutish Savage Opress, a tattooed Zabrak tribesman in the mould of Darth Maul (his brother, which is a particularly weak bit of fan fiction plotting and perhaps the weakest aspect of this thrilling arc). Focusing mainly on Ventriss’ grooming of Opress as a weapon of vengeance which leads to a supremely creepy scene in which he is transformed into an unstoppable behemoth by the Force magic of the Nightsisters, our new antagonist ably demonstrating his new power with the effortless slaughter of a Jedi and his Padawan against a thumping tribal score.
Trivia: The Nightsisters offer Count Dooku a glass of blackroot, which is a drink from Willow.
- Bounty Hunters (Season 2, Episode 17)
There’re no shortage of glaring references to the films of Japanese director Akira Kurosawa strewn throughout the Star Wars mythos like scatter cushions, but ‘Bounty Hunters’ is by far the most overt, and the most loving. An almost shot-for-shot retelling of the Seven Samurai – Obi-Wan, Anakin, Ahsoka and four bounty hunters defend a farming community from Weequay pirates trying to extort their spice crop – it even comes with a title-card dedicated to the memory of the late, great father of Japanese period epics.
Trivia: Lead bounty hunter Sugi has the same design of blaster as patron saint of all bounty hunters, Boba Fett.
- Citadel Rescue (Season 3, Episode 20)
Escaping from Jedi Azkaban with an icily sinister young captain called Tarkin (brilliantly voiced in tribute to the dearly missed Peter Cushing), after the alienating metaphysics of the ‘Mortis Trilogy’ that began with ‘Overlords’, it’s good to not only back in a straight forward, droid-bashing against-the-odds mission, but that it be such a thrilling, high-stakes one where in spite of common sense dictating exactly who’ll survive (odds are Obi-Wan, Anakin, Tarkin and R2 will, they’ve got a rendezvous on the Death Star to keep), the danger feels real. The birth of a grudging respect between Tarkin and Anakin, is a chilling foreshadowing too – something that The Clone Wars does with a subtlety the Prequel Trilogy lacked.
Trivia: The hyena-like Anoobas were based on an unused concept design for Tatooine-dwelling beasties for The Phantom Menace.
- Padawan Lost (Season 3, Episode 21)
Another episode to place Ahsoka at centre stage and proudly watch her step up as she leads a group of abducted younglings (barf) through a jungle moon to confront the vicious killers who’re hunting them like a pre-teen, Jedi edition of Predators. Unexpectedly brutal, and unlike the second part doesn’t feature a contrived appearance from Chewbacca to murder the tone and tension, the refusal of one of the antagonists to suddenly turn his back on violence, which in more formulaic series he definitely would’ve, made his eventual death more shocking and bleak.
Trivia: The Trandoshan hunter Sochek is dressed like, and inspired by, John Goodman’s character Sobchak in The Big Lebowski.
Star Wars: The Clone Wars Season 3 is out October 17 on DVD and Blu-ray from Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment.